The very first nightclub I ever played is closing down. Not today, but soon.
Valentine’s is, at least in my mind, the prototypical dive bar/rock club. Bar in front and band in back, maybe 25 feet away. A jukebox loaded with good indie rock and classic country. A $5 cover to see three bands, most nights. A seemingly random but very personalized array of rock, beer, and baseball memorabilia. A bathroom with no door, right behind the stage. I could go on. As a young man it was a great place to destroy both my hearing and liver at an equal pace.Or to just get rocked on $2 cans of Schaefer — The one beer to have when you’re having more than twenty was the slogan, I think. Or, if the budget was extra tight, dare to pull something out of the $1 “mystery bucket.” (Trust, you should never, ever do this.)
The City of Albany is doing a bit of urban renewal, which means the entire block on which Valentine’s sits will soon be flattened. In about six months, the club will be no more.
I recently wrote a short piece about my relationship with Valentine’s Music Hall, and it published in the alternative newsweekly Metroland. Click the cover to read it — mine is the first essay in the package.
Because I wrote rather quickly and had to cram a lot of ideas into a few short paragraphs, I omitted a few illuminating details. Particularly in the section involving calamity. So I wanted to clarify a few things. Think of these as footnotes. I could easily have written another 800 words (and perhaps someday I will), but, briefly:
1) Regarding the “countless awkward attempts at picking up girls,” that could have been 800 words right there.
2) When I wrote about “watching a former lover fall down the stairs,” I neglected to mention that I only saw the last part of the fall. I was in front of her and happened to turn around just as she was landing. There was nothing I could do! Anyway, she’s fine. She busted up her chin, and I spent the night with her in the ER. Then we kind of got back together. It was all rather romantic in a messed-up way.
3) The thing about the Marshall cabinet. It was Nov. 1997 in upstate New York, back when it used to snow at that time of year. I was helping the band Subduing Mara load their gear from the second floor, down the aforementioned stairs. I decided to carry a 4×10 speaker cabinet (similar to this) down the steps myself, because I was young and drunk and probably trying to impress a girl. “It’s not as heavy as it looks!” I claimed. Everything went fine until we got to the pickup truck. Since I had already carried it all that way, I attempted to lift the perhaps-as-heavy-as-it-looks item into the truck bed, not noticing I was standing on black ice. My legs went straight out in front of me. I could swear I actually paused for a moment, horizontal and mid-air, like I’d slipped on a cartoon banana peel. I landed flat on my back with the speaker cabinet on my chest, making me look and feel like the meat in a schadenfreude sandwich. The band members gathered around, their attempts to look concerned barely masking their urge to burst out laughing. The cabinet was removed from my torso, I was set on my feet and good to go, and we all went for more beers to numb the pain. The next morning was rough.
In collecting my memories for the piece, I stumbled upon a few random, mostly tiny photographs. (Pixels used to be so hard to come by!) I can’t remember who shot all of these, but names are noted where possible. At some point I’ll share some photos from the ’90s and blow everyone’s minds.
Backed by the masterful Matthew Loiacono in Sept. 2000.
The Suggestions look sharp at the Tiger Pop release show, Dec. 2000.
On guitar with the Day Jobs, June 2003. Pic courtesy of TheHiddenCity.com.
With the Suggestions, May 2006. Pic by Kathryn Lurie. I miss that guitar.
ADDENDUM, Aug. 31: I found this online hours after making this post. It’s a 1994 ad for the Potsdam College nightclub Hurley’s, clipped from the school’s student newspaper, the Raquette. You’ll notice that Alex Droog, the band I mentioned in the Metroland piece, was scheduled to play the night before Albany band Bloom. My next few bands opened for Bloom several times in the years to come at–you guessed it–Valentine’s. I’d also go on to work with their bassist, the great Mike Pauley, in a few different projects, including Five Alpha Beatdown.